The MCV blood test is a measurement of the mean corpuscular volume, which is the average size of a single red blood cell. It is a blood test that can be ordered on its own, but is most frequently ordered as part of a complete blood count, or CBC. The CBC is a broad array of screening tests that are used to determine the overall health status of a person’s health. It is usually ordered as part of an annual exam.
The MCV blood test results can be an initial indicator that there is a health issue which may need to be addressed. Follow-up testing will usually be required to determine the exact cause of an abnormal result so that a viable treatment plan can be developed.
When to Ask About the MCV Blood Test
The symptoms of abnormal MCV can be quite variable, depending on the reason behind having larger or smaller red blood cells than normal.
The signs and symptoms of having smaller than normal red blood cells may include changes in mood, including enhanced irritability. Confusion is often present, while muscle pain and/or cramping, low energy levels, persistent fatigue, and an intolerance to the cold may also develop. Some people may even experience a tingling in the feet, in the hands, or both.
The signs and symptoms of having larger than normal red blood cells can be subtle at first and may be caused by lifestyle habits. Eating a poor diet or not getting enough exercise on a regular basis over a long period of time can help to develop larger than normal cells. Individuals who abuse alcohol, have gastrointestinal issues, or may be taking certain medications may also experience bothersome signs and symptoms.
These symptoms include balance issues, dizziness, persistent fatigue, and a lack of hunger. High MCV levels can also be caused as a rare side effect to medication like metformin or through the creation of a vitamin B12 deficiency that occurs sometimes when taking protein pump inhibitors as part of an acid reflux treatment program.
What Do My MCV Blood Test Results Mean?
When the results of the MCV blood test are communicated, it is usually in terms of the test being normal, “low,” or “high.”
Normal MCV results mean that the average size of a person’s red blood cells is within a standard range. This indicates that there are no health concerns to report from this component of the complete blood count. Most people will have a normal range that is between 80-100fl, though individual and laboratory variations are known to occur.
When there are low results reported, then this indicates that the cells are smaller than normal. The two most common reasons for this result is the presence of an iron deficiency of thalassemias.
When there are high results reported, then these indicates that the red blood cells are larger than they are supposed to be. This may be caused by a folate deficiency, a lack of vitamin B12, liver disease, or a thyroid gland that is not functioning as it should.
If you have abnormal MCV blood test results in a CBC, then other tests will likely be abnormal as well. This includes the MCH blood test, the MCHC blood test, and the absolute reticulocyte count. These are all a reflection more of the abnormal size of the red blood cell more than the presence of having multiple health concerns which would need to be addressed.
Here’s What You Need to Know
Although many of the conditions that can cause an abnormal MCV blood test result is easy enough to correct through lifestyle changes, dietary changes, or the addition of supplements, there are certain serious health conditions that can also cause similar symptoms. Individuals with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease, for example, may have an abnormal MCV result be the first indication that something is wrong.
Having an excess of heavy metals in the body has also been known to alter the size of a person’s red blood cells.
Certain dietary lifestyles have also been known to affect MCV results when practiced for a long period of time. It affects long-term vegans most often, but some vegetarians have also reported receiving abnormal blood test results.
Always talk to your doctor about any supplements you are taking, medications you may have, and what your eating habits tend to be. This, along with the CBC results and the MCV blood test, can let a medical provider know what the best course of treatment may be for you.